My lady and I were in Fairfield, CA craving some food one day so she went onto her Yelp app on her Lumia 830 Windows phone to see what’s good to eat near where we were. Scrolling through the list of places to eat for one dollar and 2 dollar pricing, she found this place called Pieology Pizzeria. It had good ratings so we decided to check it out.
Woah, it felt like I was in a Chipotle but instead of burritos, I’m looking at pizza. Interesting. That’s basically what it is, you choose how you want your pizza to be topped and they make it for you. The selection of toppings is pretty vast (no anchovies as my wife found out). Different cheeses, meats, veggies, and sauces. The pizzas are thin crust from what I was able to see based on some orders that went through as we were selecting our toppings. I let my wife build up our pizza while I snapped a few photos.
This Pieology has modern decor as you can see from the above photos. Industrial ceiling above with exposed ventilation ducts. The use of tiles, metal, wood throughout as well as sharp corners add to the modern feel. The stainless steel oven is center stage behind the counter. It’s very nicely designed and I have a feeling all the other Pieology franchises look like this. A nice unique feature is the mural wall of inspirational quotes.
Quotes from different sources are spread out all over the wall and as you wait in line to place your order, it provides nice uplifting thoughts adding to the positive experience of your visit. At least it did for me.
When you get to the counter you are greeted by a host/pizza preparer with an ingredient bar in between you and them organized in the order you would normally place toppings onto a pizza. Sauces, then toppings. Not much to it.
I don’t know about you, but at first this can seem daunting if you’re used to ordering pre-determined pizzas like pepperoni and mushrooms. You assume tomato sauce is the sauce and you get exactly that. At Pieology, having to choose a sauce puts a little delay in the though process. I’m sure a few times here, you’ll get used to it. BUT, if you get all flustered and bogged down by having to make decisions, they do provide a menu of pizzas you can choose from. Thank God my wife was there to build up our custom pizza otherwise I would have gone with one of their pizzas with predetermined ingredients. I think the “Mad to Meat You” pizza looks enticing.
Our pizza was excellent. I like thin crust to begin with and the toppings my wife picked were excellent. And for the sauce – pesto. What? No red sauce?!
Not this time.
Pieology in Fairfield is located at the Gateway Couryard shopping center within 20 minutes of Vallejo, Napa, and American Canyon in Solano County. Being a franchise, there are many Pieology Pizzerias throughout California as well as some scattered throughout the country.
In the northern part of Vallejo close to Discovery Kingdom is shopping area where a lot Vallejoans get their wears and grub on. A few years ago a long time eating establishment by the name of Lyons closed their doors. Lyons died a slow death and unfortunately (or fortunately) saw its demise in early 2011 but out of its remains rose the Black Bear Diner which opened its doors in the summer that same year.
The first time I ever ate at a Black Bear Diner was in Suisun and to me it seemed like a super suburban type of place – almost country – that served good food and had good service. There’s a lot of wood used in the decor. Of course a Black Bear statue or several of them stand guard inside and out of the restaurant. The one in Vallejo even has a log toy train with little bears on them and my kids didn’t hesitate climbing atop and pretending to ride it and acted like they were friends with these cub statues. Adding to the ambiance, the menu looks like a old time newspaper from small town. You get the idea. It’s like you’re out in the country where black bears may join you for dinner.
The decor does make the restaurant feel livelier compared to Lyon’s during its last months. Where Lyons felt a little drab and depressing, Black Bear Diner is bright and cozy. I’ve been to Black Bear Diner four times in the last year and each time it was busy enough that I’ve had to wait. It’s a good sign. A busy restaurant (no matter the Yelp ratings) is a good thing to me. It means that people like the food enough to pay for it. The food is somewhat fresh because of turnover. As more people eat, the more food has to be brought in. And the service is decent enough that it doesn’t turn away customers.
Prices at Black Bear are right where a restaurant in a bedroom town like Vallejo should be – affordable. For a family like mine with 5 kids – 4 with restaurantable appetites – affordable is important. A burger, fries, and a shake with extra tin cup for the extra for under $15 bucks is welcome. Steak dinners for under $20 – pretty good.
If you know me, my biggest criteria in deciding whether I’m going to enjoy my visit to a restaurant is the dessert menu. Good thing Black Bear Diner has banana cream pies in the dessert display fridge. Winner! Oh, they have other pies, too, but banana cream is my very favorite.
Another cool thing they have is 24 hour breakfast. So if you’re craving some good ol’ breakfast foods, you’re covered. Eggs, hash browns, sausage – you’re covered.
If you’re in the area of Vallejo, American Canyon, and Discovery Kingdom and you want some good affordable food, stop by Vallejo’s Black Bear Diner and bring the family!
My eldest son told my wife and I about this little place he goes to get boba drinks. They’re those drinks that come with dark chewy tapioca balls. It turns out they serve food, too. A good thing for us because we like to eat out a few times a months as much as our budget allows our family of seven to go. That’s a lot of mouths to feed!
The little place he was referring to is Crave. We decided to try out Crave in American Canyon, a little town sandwiched in between Vallejo and Napa California. Crave serves a variety of things but I don’t think you can go wrong with most of the stuff they serve and they tout themselves as an Asian Fusion restaurant.
They have a wide selection of boba drinks (with and without boba). We got some taro root drinks, a lychee one, and a couple thai milk teas. There may have been an avocado one, too, but can’t be too sure. I like thai milk tea and Crave’s is pretty good. You can’t really do it wrong unless you put way too much milk that it tastes like, well, milk. Then you’ve messed it up.
This was our first time at Crave and the first food we ordered the Sisig Fries. Sisig, for those that don’t know is a Pampanga term that means “to snack on something sour”. Pampanga is a section of the Philippines in the Central Luzon region.
Enough geography…Crave’s sisig fries are excellent. A wonderful snack or meal if you’d prefer to enjoy them by yourself. It’s loaded with sisig pork, cheese, sour cream, and some other stuff, and it tastes good!
Next we ordered the surf and turf noodles. It’s got pork, it’s got shrimp (hence the surf and turf in the name), and it’s got noodles. And it’s good, too! One of those dishes you have to try. It’s so simple yet so yummy.
They’ve got rice plates, too. Our family shared the barbeque pork skewers and egg over rice. They stick to what works in most Filipino restaurants and it’s done well.
Oh! Did I tell you they serve crepes? If you have room after your meal, they’re an excellent dessert!
On the way down highway 29 in Napa, CA my family and I passed American Canyon Car Wash and there was a special. One Dollar quick car washes! (Update: No more dollar deal. Boo!)
Our cars rarely get washed. I mean rarely like once or twice a year. With nary a cloud of rain anytime in the near future and a couple bucks to spare our truck full of kids turned into the driveway and paid our $1.
Car washes aren’t all that exciting really but for us it was fun. Remember, we have 5 kids and for 4 of them, it was quite an experience. The baby sat quietly wondering what was going on. Number two, screamed in fear at the sights and noises attacking every panel and window. Number 3 and 4 were all smiles and keenly observing each phase of the wash from the initial spray of mist by the two guys at the beginning of the wash, they sprayed front, top, sides, wheels, and rear with their misting hoses, to shifting into neutral as the conveyor took the wheels and started pulling the truck forward.
For a buck it was a nice family event that the kids won’t soon forget. Not to mention that the vehicle now looks spotless – at least on the outside. The inside is a different story and it will cost way more than a dollar to clean that up. Nasty!
The quick wash even came with free use of their vacuums. That’s quite a deal if you ask me. But just like all good deals this dollar wash ended the same day. That being the case as soon as we got home, I took my car there. Numbers 3 and 4 came along for that one, too! I don’t know what it is about car washes but I remember trips to the car wash when I was a kid and that one was the kind where you had to get out and go into a room where you could follow your car through the wash through the windows. Even though you had to get out of the car it was still a fun experience.
With my car I decided to splurge and pay $3 for the extra foam wash and some other thing that I forgot but it sounded clean. Then after that my kids and vacuumed the interior. That was a fun thing to do with them and to be able to watch them work together at something was a pleasure to see.
I guess seeing something dirty and gross transform into something clean and shiny is a nice thing to witness. I know when I watch shows like Overhaulin’ where Chip Foose transforms ugly cars into works of art or Flipping Vegas when Scott and Amie Yancey take a junky house and morph it into beautiful homes that sell for top dollar, I really enjoy watching the process of the transformation.
In a small way, getting your car washed is kind of the same thing.
Nestled in a little town called Green Valley between American Canyon, Vallejo, and Fairfield is a Chinese bistro called Sticky Rice. It’s not typical Chinese restaurant, at least the typical ones I’ve been to. This establishment is quite nice and has a high end feel. The good news for me and my big family is that prices aren’t high end.
Its owners opted not to place their eatery in a strip mall but in an office building. But its location does not suffer from lack of traffic and once you’ve had the opportunity to eat there, you’ll most likely add it to your list of restaurants to come back to.
As you enter the restaurant you’ll notice right off the bat that this is going to be a different dining experience. The decor is modern and classy. Nice contrasting colors and textures throughout. The dining area is open and surprisingly there are no dividing walls between tables. The only walls that are there exist between the dining area and the entry and bar.
And the dividing walls are very nicely made with wood, metal, and frosted glass. Their bar exudes quality and class. Something you might see at a nice hotel.
There’s also an outdoor patio if you decide to have the outdoor dining experience. It feels secluded and comfortable and they probably make it available for reservations I imagine.
On to the food. For our appetizers we had hot and sour soup, wor wonton soup, and ahi tuna bites. The soups were good and expected. But the tuna bites were out of this world good! The presentation was top notch but the way they combined cucumber, tuna, seaweed, and how the Sriracha and aioli (I’m guessing) was to die for. Highly recommended if you ever decide to eat there.
The a la carte dishes we had were the pan-fried noodle chow mein, orange beef, fried rice, and honey walnut prawns. Everything was good. It was the first time I tried the orange beef and that was just OK. The honey walnut prawns, however, were perfect. Crunchy shrimp, great tasting honey mayonnaise sauce, and nicely candied walnuts. Honey walnut prawns are a family favorite and I’d say the way Sticky Rice prepares it is among the top 2 or 3 I’ve had. Not too much batter and just the right amount of sweetness to the sauce.
Now my favorite part of all my meals: dessert. The two we decided to try were the cheesecake which had a raspberry drizzle. The other was the fried banana with ice cream. First, the cheesecake. It was really good. Can’t really mess up a cheesecake but then again, I don’t have very high standards when it comes to sweets.
The fried banana and ice cream was very, very good. Usually if it’s on the menu, I get the fried banana with ice cream. I’ll ask for ice cream if it’s not part of the dish normally. The surprising thing about Sticky Rice’s version is not the presentation or the taste, both of which were excellent, but it was the amount of dessert you get for the order. I don’t remember the price but I’m pretty sure it was less than 10 bucks! It was enough for 4 of us to share it and be satisfied with the quantity we were able to consume. That is value for your money!
I would say that Sticky Rice should be on your list of places to east if you’re every passing by Solano County. It’s about 15 minutes away from Benicia and Vallejo, and the same drive from the other direction in Fairfield. I highly recommended you do it!
My family and I went to Gott’s (wrote about it here) one day and decided to check out the Oxbow Public Market and that place is cool. It’s like a little mall with specialty stores and food places. I wanted to get some cupcakes at Kara’s Cupcakes and they were excellent as gourmet cupcakes tend to be. Who would’ve thought cupcakes would ever be a big business? Having just watched my first episode of Cupcake Wars, I guess I can see why.
Located just north of Vallejo and American Canyon and east of Sonoma in the city of Napa, Oxbow Public Market contains a variety of shops and eateries inside a large warehouse. Upon entering the warehouse in which the Oxbow Public Market exists my family and I were pleasantly surprised by what was inside. Although I only had cupcakes from Kara Cupcakes’s which were really good if I haven’t mentioned, I really was drawn to the feel of the place. Bustling with activity and the cacophony of merchants and visitors that you only get from a marketplace with concrete floors and a metal roof, the combination of colors and sounds gives Oxbow a unique appeal. Merchants of different kinds fill the place with tasty goods and confections for those of us with a sweet tooth.
There are two butcher shops located in the Oxbow Public Market. One called called The Fatted Calf and the other Five Dot Ranch. At one of them is where we learned what 42-day aged beef was and why it tastes so good and why it’s expensive. The beef is actually left to sit in a room controlled room for 42 days and the reason why it’s expensive is because the water gets drawn out and what’s left is the meat without the water content (or much of it anyway). The carcass actually build a layer of inedible “skin” with mold that gets cut and thrown out hence adding to the per pound cost of the aged beef. Once that is removed you are left with a rich, flavorful, and hearty cut of beef. Maybe one day will pick up a cut and taste test that process and see if it’s worth the premium in price. I couldn’t tell you the difference between a choice, select, or kobe ribeye steak. Honestly. So for me at least it may not be worth the extra cost.
There’s also a fish market and an oyster bar in Oxbow! We’re definitely going back to try Hog Island Oyster Bar out because I’m a big oyster fan. Raw, fried, grilled, bar-b-queued – it’s all good. Another great find is a Triple D (Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives) reviewed joint called Pica Pica Maize Kitchen. I think it has something to do with corn since that’s what maize means. We’ll be eating there some time in the near future hopefully to find out what signature dish drew the Triple D crew to Pica Pica.
Oxbow Public Market has ample parking around the area and with all the different stores you may have to make several trips into Napa to try everything. To learn more visit their website at http://oxbowpublicmarket.com.
Blue Rocks Springs Golf Course is a municipal course in Solano County in the city of Vallejo. I’ve played several times there over the last several years. This is also the very first 18 hole golf course I ever played.
Located off of Columbus Parkway on the Benicia side of Vallejo, Blue Rock Springs G.C. offers a decent golfer venue at a reasonable price. Golf carts are available and for the East course, it is highly recommended as it is fairly hilly. There are two courses at Blue Rock simply named the East and West courses and both play very nicely for the recreational and beginner golfer. It’s got some challenging holes on both sides with doglegs and water holes as well so it’s fun enough for more serious golfers. The rough isn’t too crazy as most public courses tend to have them which for me, makes it more fun to play anyway. And most fairways are forgiving that if you slice or hook a little, you’ll still have a playable ball for your next shot.
I’m not a devout golfer and only play maybe 4 to 6 times a year if I’m lucky especially since I’ve got five kids now. A busy family life makes sure I don’t get out to the golf course too often but I am hitting the range more often nowadays though. It’s fun to take the kids along with me to hit some golf balls down the range. So take this post as an amateur’s review of a golf course he’s played maybe a dozen times throughout the last decade.
The West course is a little flatter and if you intend to walk, then this is the easier of the two to walk on. The East course is more difficult with more hills and built an the foothill of a small mountain (or big hill) and offers nice views on some holes. This course gave me my very first birdie on one of the par 3s.
The driving range is nice with plenty of stalls and I never seem to have any trouble finding a stall even on weekends. Sometimes I can find 3 next to each other if the kids are with me. It doesn’t have a sand or a real pitching green though which would make it a pretty top notch municipal golf course. But even with that missing, it’s still a good place to practice and play if your nearby in one of the surrounding cities like American Canyon or Benicia.
If you love good, crispy wings then you probably have eaten at Wing Stop. Their deep fried wings are delicious. Well, the Wing Stop in American Canyon north of Vallejo in Solano County combined with Over The Top yogurt shop which is right next door to it. Wing Stop is located off of highway 29 in the Napa Junction Shopping Center just north of Vallejo. By combining the two together, the seating area has just about tripled and you can get your yogurt for dessert without stepping foot outside. They conveniently carved a doorway in between the two establishments which makes it easy to go between both establishments.
Over the Top is a self serve yogurt parlor. You pick the flavor of yogurt from the soft serve machines and add as many toppings as you like. Add sprinkles, Oreo crumbs, nuts, sauces, or whatever suits your taste buds.
So if you’re ever in travelling up highway 29, driving through Vallejo in towards Napa or Sonoma, and craving some fried wings and yogurt, please stop by and support them.
My favorite are the lemon pepper wings (bone-in), well done with Ranch dressing. Since we’ve got a large family we get the 40 piece family pack with fries and veggie sticks.